I love to fish. I love everything about it. I love the water. I love the setting it brings.
Being outdoors, hiking to a fishing spot. I love finding the perfect spot. I even love fishing all day and catching nothing. Of course I want to catch a fish, but the experience is worth it, even if I don’t.
But I wasn’t always this way. I grew up fishing, my dad would take me fishing all the time, every year. Burney falls. Beautiful.
Most of the time…I complained. It was too cold. It was boring. I wasn’t catching anything. How much longer until we go home? I’m hungry. I need to go to the bathroom, which always got an answer that I didn’t enjoy.
My dad would pack the pole. Buy the gear. Organize the tackle box. Everything was in place the day before, ready to go.
This was how things went for many years. I fished with the pole that was set up for me. I fished at my father’s spots. I fished for the fish I was taught to fish for. I fished just I had seen others fish.
I remember one year, my buddy and I were mountain biking down to the Lake that the falls flowed down to. It was a warm clear day and the trail was quick. We covered miles in minutes. We imagined we were blazing a trail in which no one had been and yet there were millions of stories of others who had tread before us.
Nature shares its beauty with everyone; this is the beauty of God. He makes himself known to the just and the unjust. We eventually made it to the lake, and pulled up to a familiar ledge that rises about 7 feet above the surface of the water.
It was sunset. The water was glass. The sun turned the surface of the water into liquid fire. It was beautiful and I was frozen by the beauty. Over time I’ve learned the different ways God communicates to His children. I couldn’t have known it then, but God was showing me a little piece of His glory in that sunset, letting me hear his voice a little louder through the moments that passed. As a man now I realize the things my heavenly Father did for me as a young boy. I’m so grateful. May God give my children these moments. Surely this moment was designed for me.
My buddy had already moved on down the trail, but I was stuck; alone and awestruck. Then I saw something incredible. Way out. Almost in the dead center of the Lake were about 5-10 huge trout.
Listen to me. These trout were huge. The biggest trout I have ever seen, still. They were just cruising near the surface of the water. Slow and ancient, these were native trout. No hatchery had given them life; they were ancestors of fish who were born in that Lake. The sight of them was majestic.
I couldn’t believe my eyes; I was enthralled. I looked for someone to share this moment with but no one was around. Those fish were beyond the reach of even the best cast from shore. Those ancient shadows under water were further than I had ever gone. Beyond what was possible.
In this moment something in me changed about fishing. It became my own. I wanted it. I had seen a glimpse of something, something marvelous, something ancient, something beyond my knowledge and I wanted it.
I have started every year off with a focus on prayer and fasting for some years now. I usually start thinking about it at my last bite at Thanksgiving; you know what I’m talking about.
If I’m honest there’s a part of me that begins to dread it. I just really enjoy eating, don’t you? Jesus knows this about us.
Jesus was well aware and acquainted with the joys of eating and participated in it with his followers, and some of his critics (Matthew 11:19). Why does God want us to fast in order to be close to Him? Why do we have to fast in order for some things to happen (Mark 9:29)? What is it about fasting that brings us nearer to Jesus?
Listen to Jesus talk to His friends about fasting and prayer…
- Matthew 6:5
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full!
6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full!
17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,
18 so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
I believe there are moments that God wants to have with you, that have to happen in secret. Be with me. No one else is invited. There are moments waiting for you, with God, through fasting; moments that change the perspective of your mind, and the trajectory of your life.
Just a little further out. A little beyond where you’ve been, a little beyond where you know to go, and beyond your knowledge of how to get there.
When we were first made, Genesis 3 says we used to walk with the living God. That blows my mind. It should trip you out as well. Walking and talking with God? That’s amazing.
Over time, because of sin, because of the distance it brings, we have forgotten what it was like to do that. Over centuries, the fog of enlighten has covered the mountains of the garden, and we’ve lost touch. We’ve forgotten.
But God hasn’t forgotten. God hasn’t forgotten what it was like to walk with us in His garden, He remembers. He also knows a way for us to get a little closer to how things used to be; one of those ways is through fasting.
- 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
God made you; surely he knows the best ways for you to connect with Him. Jesus knows that fasting opens you up to a different level of vulnerability.
Could it be because God remembers when we used to eat to thrive but not survive?
Fasting pauses the natural and invites the supernatural.
Fasting sets dynamite off by the damn we’ve allowed time build between us and God.
Fasting mutes the distractions and allows the volume of God to get cranked up.
Jesus promised to draw near to those who draw near to Him. Fasting is an amazing opportunity to draw near.
But it’s definitely beyond the norm. Even people outside the church have stumbled into physical benefits of fasting, but it’s the spiritual connection that makes a difference. But that the eyes of men can’t see difference, only by our unseen Father who sees the what’s happening on the inside.
There’s someone out there, in Him, beyond the norm, beyond the seen, in the unseen.
It doesn’t matter how spiritual you are, it’s not about you, but it’s about meeting with the Holy Spirit. It’s not about being like so and so. It’s about Jesus taking you further, beyond, past, where you are accustomed to going, and beyond what you’re comfortable with. Never in your life has being comfortable brought greater strength, wisdom, and peace. Challenge calls for struggle, struggle requires endurance, and endurance calls for strength. While this is true for our physical life, it’s equally as true for our spiritual lives.
Fasting allows us to see what God sees in us. We get to see the unseen.
There is always more to know about God.
There is always more to hear from God.
There is always more at the table for those who come to be with Him.
God is wading deeper out, come out a little further. God is the other side of the cliff…you can make it. God is holding your hand…you’re going to be okay. God is with you in your loneliness…I’m with you.
It’s about you and God. Together. Just you guys. When you’re relationship with God gets personal in this way, God has more room to do the work He’s been waiting to in you.
Back to fishing.
A few years later I found myself back in Burney but with a new attitude. I was going to fish, but I was going to go out by myself. The location was all mapped out, the tackled box was filled and brimming with optimism. I went to sleep that night confident, probably overconfident, but nonetheless I was ready.
The sun was still sleeping when I woke up and there was a sharp cold in the air. My brothers were still asleep and no one stirred in the campground. I geared up and started pedaling to my spot. It didn’t take long for me to feel like I had picked the wrong day to fish. Someone had either taken all the fish out of the river while I was sleeping or they knew I was coming. I wasn’t catching anything. But I wasn’t giving up, I just kept moving up the riverbed and kept casting.
As I walked and climbed up over a small hill, hoping to get a better spot for fishing, I ran into someone else fishing. At first glance this guy seemed legendary. First of all he was really old, at least that was my perception of him. Wrinkly but not weak; the lines on his face portrayed wisdom more than they did age. He looked awesome. His fishing gear looked unique and aged. Even the vest he wore was clearly twice my age and had caught more fish than I ever would, I was in awe of this guy. So obviously I quickly turned around and fished away from him.
Looking back I realize that he must have seen me and probably wondered what in the world I was doing. But as a kid I just didn’t want to get too close to his fishing spot or anything like that so I just found my own place to fish and keep hoping for the best.
A moment later, he came over the hill with intentions of speaking to me. At first he didn’t say anything but was not almost right next to me. Eventually he asked me what I was fishing with. He never asked me if I had caught anything; I think that’s because he could tell right away that I wasn’t the best of fisherman. After showing him the gear and bait I was using he did something I wasn’t expected.
He reached out, took my line, and cut it.
If you never fished before let me explain something important to the story. I was using something called a swivel. It is a metal clip about an inch or so big and it’s used to clip different bait, hooks, lures on quickly. I was using this piece of equipment, and he didn’t like it.
He told me how the fish could see the swivel under water; how he knew this never crossed my mind, I was listening intently. He asked me if he could show me how to tie a knot that would make my line disappear. As I watched his leathery fingers tie this knot I knew I was learning something that this man had been practicing for years, something ancient. After a few tries I got it. He wished me well and left. I never saw Him again.
I caught 3 fish after that and was thrilled to show my family.
Sometimes, when we get alone with God, we find something waiting for us that we didn’t even know we needed. When we decide to spend time with Jesus for ourselves, God shows up and does a great work in our life that changes everything, even expanding our horizon on whom He is and what He can do (Eph 3:20).
He will take his ancient hands and guide you as He has guided so many before into the things he has in store for you. Jesus said “and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” There are rewards waiting for those who run towards the Father.
Who knows what the mind of the Lord has in store for you this year? But knowing there is something there, a little further than what’s normal, a little beyond where you’ve been, don’t you want it.
Jesus said, fast and come find me. Pause all those things that pull you from me, even food, and let me fill you with the bread of life and the water than quenches thirst for eternity.
May God bless you as you fast. May you hear his voice and feel his touch. But beyond that, may Jesus take you further than you thought possible.